If you’re a lover of the outdoors then you’re going to be spoilt for choice when it comes to hikes in Colombia. There’s so much biodiversity in this country (hello, it’s the second most biodiverse country in the world!) that you can literally go hiking among snow-capped peaks on one day and through tropical jungles the next. So, if you are heading to Colombia soon, pack your hiking shoes and get ready for some hikes in Colombia worth writing home about.
1. The Lost City Trek
This was one of the first hikes in Colombia I took on and it was also the most memorable. The four-day hike through the Sierra Nevada leads to the Ciudad Perdida, a lost city that is believed to have be founded in 800 A.D. Not only will you see the local landscape change in colour, and go from lush jungle to red dirt, but you’ll also get the change to jump in watering holes and cross flowing rivers (depending in which season you go in). You might even meet some local indigenous people who still live within the area. The Lost City hike is a return trip that begins and ends in a small town called Machete. Be sure to bring strong insect repellent, swimmers, sunscreen, a hat, a refillable water bottle, hiking clothes and a head torch.
2. Cocora Valley Hike
Probably the most exciting and popular thing to do while in Salento is a visit to the Cocora Valley and once you visit you’ll understand why. The place is absolutely spectacular. You can catch a jeep in the morning from the main square in town, which will drop you off at the entrance point of Cocora Valley – it’s about a 20 minute drive. Once you’re there, take a look at the map and get ready for a day spent soaking in the surroundings. You almost feel like you’re on the set of Jurassic Park (minus the dinosaurs) because it is so visually breathtaking. The trek takes around five hours to complete and is relatively easy on the difficulty scale. Definitely one of the most spectacular hikes in Colombia, especially when you take in the views of the tall wax palms, Colombia’s national tree.
3. Sierra Nevada de Cocuy
Image: Beto Duran
The Sierra Nevada de Cocuy is where you are going to see snow (Yes, snow!) in Colombia. Some of the peaks are as high as 5,330 metres above sea level. Cam Honan from The Hiking Life says the hike is visually spectacular and is the place with the second highest concentration of glaciers in Colombia. He also suggests visiting between December and March for the best conditions. “The majority of hikers that do this circuit take a guide,” Cam says. “However, if your navigation skills are good and you have the necessary equipment for high altitude conditions, you should be fine to go independently.”
4. Caño Cristales
Image: Mario Carvajal
Know as the River of Five Colours, Caño Cristales can be found in the mountain range of Serranía de la Macarena. To reach the starting point of the trek, you’ll have to catch a flight from Bogota to Villavicencio and then travel further to a small village called La Macarena. Caño Cristals was once off limits to tourists because of nearby guerilla activity, but now the local military keep the town of La Macarena secure and the area is open to tourists. You have to plan your trip to Caño Cristales carefully, though, because the river is in its colourful peak during specific times during the year. But according to Richard McColl it’s worth the trip. “Everything here depends on the weather. If the sun is not shining and the reflection is not going your way, be prepared to wait for that perfect shot since the colours will not resound as you would like.” Also, remember that if you are looking to swim in the designated area, you are not allowed to wear sunscreen because it can have negative effects on the delicate ecosystem.
5. Chingaza National Park
Image: Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero
Chingaza National Park is towards the northeast of Bogota with elevation reaching 4,000 metres above sea level. The area is part of the Paramo ecosystem, which some scientists believe to be evolutionary hotbeds of biodiverse activity. This is also the area where much of Bogota’s drinking water comes from and keep your eyes peeled while you’re hiking because the area is home to numerous animals. Naomi from How to…Bogota says Chingaza is the perfect spot for nature lovers. “If you are looking for 100% unspoiled nature, Chingaza is your best choice,” she says. “This century-old nature reserve will take your breath away. The Siecha lagoons were Indian worshiping grounds, now serving as water reservoirs for surrounding farm lands.”
6. La Ruta Mutis
The Mutis Route is a route which extends from Bogota through small towns and villages through Colombia, following the locations 18th century Spanish scientist José Celestino Mutis’ ventured through upon his arrival from Spain. Mutis, a priest, botanist and mathematician, explored and navigated the country in 1760 to document the flora and fauna found in the region. The route passes through La Mesa, Valle de San Juan, Ibagué, Falon, San Sebastian de Mariquita, Honda, Ambalema and Guaduas.
7. Chicamocha Canyon
There’s a 7km hike available at Chicamocha Canyon Ridge* in Santander, which is one of the largest canyons in the world. Hiking through this region you’ll not only see the incredible view down through to the riverbed below, but you’ll pass by waterfalls, coffee farms and small towns. Jule recently shared her experiences over at Trip101. “The journey from Cabrera to Los Santos via the canyon involves three days of wandering through the back country of Colombia,” she says. “The climb up the hill through the jungle will take you to Barichara, a charming and quaint colonial village.”
8. Los Nevados National Park
Image: Mauricio Agudelo
Near the city of Manizales in the Los Nevados National Park is the 10km hike called Camino Real, which Cristin from Freckled Chronicals recently visited. “The only passing traffic was one other group of tourists and a man with his herd of goats,” she says. “The hike is mainly downhill along the edge of a beautiful canyon with some breath-taking views. In almost every region of Colombia you’ll find a hike or walk to entertain you and capture the diverse landscape.”
Having you been hiking in Colombia? What areas did you visit? Let me know in the comments section below.
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